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Thu., Oct. 8
Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York

RESCUE squad building faces skeptics


Plans for a new Ogdensburg Volunteer Rescue Squad building at the former Hackett Hardware store at 1223 Pickering St. were met Monday with skepticism.

In contrast to an earlier meeting which was relatively mild, this time there were more pointed questions about safety as the proposed location is near residential neighborhoods and Ogdensburg Free Academy.

No one objects to the squad, just where it wants to relocate from its current headquarters at 101 State St.

“It is a bad place to be all the way around,” said Marsha L. Morrow, of 1123 Pickering St.

Donna Dishaw, of 24 Gilbert St., pointed to the proximity of Ogdensburg Free Academy at nearby 1100 State St.

“It’s because of the school being there,” she said.

Pat P. Merria, of 23 Gilbert St., agreed with her neighbor and then some.

“It’s a neighborhood,” she said. “And it’s too close to the school.”

Squad Treasurer R. Storm Cilley and Director of Operations Kenneth J. Gardner attempted to calm the skeptics. Trained drivers will rarely turn on sirens and lights when they leave the new building.

And they will head for their calls via Fine Street to the south to get to State Street or Route 37, not north through the neighborhoods.

The squad is still waiting for presumed approval of a $1.2 million low-interest U.S. Department of Agriculture loan that would be paid off in 30 years at $90,000 annually. The building would be bought for $740,000 and the squad would raise $250,000 from its own cash and through fundraisers.

The squad also hopes to soften the blow of taking the 59,925-square-foot building off the tax rolls by renting the 35,000 square feet it won’t be using.

The squad also figures it will save about $3.5 million off an estimated $5 million cost of building a new headquarters on Route 812 just south of the city line.

Mr. Cilley said the squad, which is facing the end of a 40-year lease on 101 State St., needs more room and has been unsuccessful in finding another site.

“The big thing is we have to go somewhere,” he said.

Chris B. LaLonde, of 1228 Pickering St., an early critic of the squad’s site selection, said some opponents were afraid to sign a petition stating so for fear their calls for service would be ignored.

“Why would we do that?” Mr. Gardner asked. “Come on.”

Ogdensburg city councilors who attended the meeting supported the squad.

“It’s an allowable use in that area,” Jennifer Stevenson said.

Wayne L. Ashley said Hackett’s generated more traffic than the squad will. And it is a needed service.

“The squad is invaluable to the city,” Mr. Ashley said.

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